(“Okay first things first, I’ll eat ya brains. Then imma start rockin’ gold teeth and fangs… cause that’s what a mothafuckin’ monstah do…”)
When our friend Matt (of Best Wings LI fame!) approached me via Facebook message and asked if I’d be willing to make some Walking Dead inspired Valentine’s Day cupcakes (on about 3 days notice), at first I was like “Uhhh…” I didn’t know what to do. My first reaction was no. I mean, I had ideas, but then I was thinking how I could probably NOT pull them off because where do I get ANYTHING zombie-themed in FEBRUARY!?
However, I calmed down and came to the realization that I’m an artist. Seriously. Like Jack Nicholson said in (one of my favorite movies) The Departed; “Yanno John Lennon? He said: I’m an artist. Ya give me a fuckin’ tuba, I’ll get you somethin’ out of it.” Why would I worry about buying anything when I have 4+ years of art school, 1 semester of sculpture class, a childhood of Play-Doh and Sculpey experience and over 10+ years of baking experience? Plus, there’s this newfangled concoction called fondant- it seems to be a hit on The Food Network! I could use that to make whatever I needed.
Thing is? I never really used it before. *dum dum dummmmm*
How hard could it be?
First things first: what kind of cupcakes was I going to make? Next: what was I going to do for this “Walking Dead” theme? I decided on dark chocolate cupcakes with fresh whole raspberries mixed in. Topped with chocolate frosting, then some crumbled Oreo cookies – which is basically the cake world’s universal symbol of “dirt.” Not only is that appropriate but it adds texture to the otherwise smooth & sweet frosting. I used these big, over exaggerated black cupcake liners to up the ante on the drama. And then…? What else??
Zombies, brains… it’s a no-brainer, right? Har, har. Plus, when you Google “Walking Dead cake” or cupcakes, there’s quite a few bloody brains included in the search. Good enough for me! Plus brains are way cooler than Sheriff’s badges or whatever. Confession time: I never saw the Walking Dead. Ugh. I know I know! I want to- but I have to start from the beginning, and like what happened with Dexter… basically, I need the series to be OVER so I can watch it all in one weekend, k. I can’t watch everything up to a certain point and then wait for a new season! IT’S CRUELTY!
But I knew enough about it to know what it involves. Duh. And Jay’s friend from work’s brother was a writer on the show back when it first started, so I definitely knew enough about it. Plus I have Facebook, and friends. I hear things. And see things. I know all about Glen. #spoilers
DARK CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY ZOMBIE CUPCAKES (OR NOT)
Makes between 12 and 16 cupcakes, depending on pan size and cupcake liners
- 1/4 cup Hershey’s® Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 container (6 ounces) fresh raspberries, chilled
- Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- Sift together cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. In another bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in raspberries- it’s okay if they stay whole and it’s also okay if they break (as a matter of fact, because I did in fact use a hand mixer to incorporate my berries, the firmer ones stayed mostly whole but the softer ones broke into a gazillion little berry pieces & everyone loved them, said it tasted like raspberry jam mixed in there). Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Fill cupcake liners around 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for several minutes in the cupcake pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost only when completely cooled.
SPRINKLES’ DARK CHOCOLATE FROSTING
MAKES ENOUGH TO FROST 2 DOZEN CUPCAKES, CAN BE HALVED
- 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 pound plus 8 ounces powdered sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Melt and cool chocolate (until just slightly warm). Beat butter until light and fluffy.
- With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar. Add salt, vanilla and sour cream and mix until very smooth.
- Add chocolate and mix until just incorporated. Pipe on to cooled cupcakes or spread on with offset spatula. Brains not included.
So, after figuring out my game plan, I went out to look for some materials, and instead of fondant I purchased some Wilton Shape ‘n’ Amaze edible decorating dough. Same principle as fondant- it’s an edible “doughy” clay that can be molded into different shapes, and tinted as needed. I though the natural/beige color was perfect for brains, so I went with it. It was very easy to work with.
After I made the brains- which wasn’t as time consuming as I thought!- I took some almond extract and watered down some red gel icing color. When it was the right consistency, I “painted” the brains with it, letting it drip in between the swirls and scrolls. It dried, and ended up looking very cool.
How did I make the brains? Easy. First, I kneaded the edible dough to where it was soft and pliable enough to mold. Then I shaped little “egg” type shapes. I flattened one side of them (the bottom) so I could have them sit properly on a flat surface (my parchment paper on a plate). Then I just started creating long, thin, strips of dough and swirling them, attaching them to the egg shape with almond extract. I used Google to get images of fondant & candy brains, so that helped a lot. Faux brains and real brains are different, y’all. One package of the Shape ‘n’ Amaze will give you about 6 or 7 (maybe even 8 or 9) cupcake-sized brains.
After that, it was smooth sailing. I let the brains dry overnight and by the time I was ready for them, they were hard enough where they wouldn’t get smooshed and were holding their shape. I had to add some hearts in there. C’mon. It’s VALENTINE’S DAY.
And voila. Walking Dead Valentine cupcakes. We called them “Walker Cakes.” You can call them whatever you want. Now go eat some brains.